On this last Sunday before Great Lent, the last day that traditionally Orthodox Christians eat dairy products until Easter, the Church remembers the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. God commanded them to fast from the fruit of a tree (Gen. 2:16), but they did not obey. In this way Adam and Eve and their descendants became heirs of death and corruption.
On Forgiveness Sunday many attend Forgiveness Vespers on the eve of Great Lent. They hear on the Lord's teaching about fasting and forgiveness and enter the season of the fast forgiving one another so that God will forgive them. If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses (Matthew 6:14).
The Gospel reading of the day also gives advice on fasting. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18).
The Rite of Forgiveness
After the dismissal at Vespers, The priest stands beside the analogion, or before the ambon, and the faithful come up one by one and venerate the ikon, after which each makes a prostration before the priest, saying “Forgive me, a sinner.” The priest also makes a prostration before each “God forgives. Forgive me.” The person responds, “God forgives” and receives a blessing from the priest. Meanwhile the choir sings quietly the Irmoi of the Paschal Canon, or else the Paschal Stichera. After receiving the priests blessing, the faithful also ask forgiveness of each other.
Kontakion (Tone 6)
- Master, Teacher of wisdom,
- Bestower of virtue,
- You teach the thoughtless and protect the poor:
- Strengthen and enlighten my heart.
- Word of the Father,
- Let me not restrain my mouth from crying to you:
- Have mercy on me, a transgressor,
- O merciful Lord!
- Sunday of Cheesefare Expulsion of Adam from Paradise from OCA website
- Questions on Forgiveness Sunday from the parish website of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church of Dallas, Texas (ROCOR)
- Forgiveness Sunday by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
- Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) from GOARCH website
- Forgiveness Sunday from GOARCH website
- Forgiveness Vespers Horologion Text (Word Format)
- Variable Portions of Forgiveness Vespers for the current year (Old Calendar)